Tom's Blog

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Year-end data summary

Since 2002 I have been keeping careful field notes of plant species, their locations, phenology, and any other characteristics of interest. At the end of each season, I have been entering all the data into an Excel spreadsheet. Heisley and Marci managed to read my handwriting and did all the computer work. Today, Heisley put together summaries of all the data.

These data are interesting for a number of reasons. First, we are always adding new species. This year we added 15 new species (there were 471 species in our check list last year and 486 this year). Some of these new species are routine (we had not missed them, but just had not recorded them) and some were exciting (such as the Desmodium paniculatum that Armund Bartz found for us). We should have seen that one, since it was all over the place!

Our species check list has the year that we first found each species. Since 2002, we have had help from lots of experts, including an extensive survey of sedges that Josh Sulman did in 2006, and an extensive wetland survey that Ted Cochrane did in 2008. It is understandable that the more eyes, the more species. Also, these folks are a lot better trained than we are.

Every year I wonder whether I should be carrying a PDA running Excel, so that I can get these data into the computer in the field. And every year I decide that I really like my handwritten notes, since they can be free form and I am not forced to follow a rigid data structure. (See the photo at the bottom of this post.)

It takes two to three full days to turn all my notes into the Excel file (about 2000 lines of code). The data entry is done using a lookup table that has all the species we are likely to find. There is a six letter code for each species, and the lookup formula converts this code into both the Latin name and the common name. Merel Black kindly gave me the code for this lookup table.

Once we get all the data entered, then we put together a series of reports. We prepare an individual species list for each management unit and for each planted prairie. Since savanna restoration is our main focus, we prepare a separate species list that shows the species in each savanna unit. (This year, we had 304 species in the savannas.)

Since I make notes of flowering, seed set, etc., we also prepared a phenological table. Also, a table of seed collecting dates. etc etc

Some of these tables end up on our web site, where they are available to others. All the data end up in our files, where they can be referred to for historical or botanical reasons.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home